The Blender Girl

Cooking Tips

What Is A Grain Ball?

I like to supplement a bowl of blended soup with a scoop of cooked grain (day-old is best, as it sticks together). I prefer the protein-rich grains—quinoa, amaranth, and millet (they’re alkaline, too). But use any grains you like—brown rice, buckwheat, or (if you’re not gluten-free) pearl barley. Try cooking grains in vegetable broth or coconut milk, and/or adding some ginger, garlic, sea vegetables, herbs, and spices for an added boost of flavor.

Freeze leftover milk in ice cube trays for use later

Don't waste that leftover milk. Freeze it in ice cube trays, and them empty into containers or zip-lock freezer bags for use later in smoothies, soups, and other recipes. 

How To Select, Store, & Ripen Persimmons

When selecting persimmons, choose those that are very firm amd colourful. Don't buy fruits that have started to ripen as they may be bruised.  Store and ripen persimmons at room temperature in a clean, dry container with other varieties of fruit that give off large quantities of ethylene such as apples, pears, and bananas. Once the skin blisters it is ready. Here's a fabulous trick: freeze a rock hard unripe persimmon until it is frozen solid. As it thaws, it will magically ripen. 

How To Select and Store the Best Romaine Lettuce

Romaine or Cos Lettuce has deep green, long leaves with a crisp texture and deep taste. The best Romaine lettuce should have compact heads with crisp looking, unwilted leaves that are free of dark or slimy spots, and the leaves' edges should be free of brown or yellow discolouration. Romaine lettuce should be washed and dried (a salad spinner is great) before storing in the refrigerator to remove any excess moisture. Store it in the crisper wrapped in a damp cloth or in a plastic bag. It should keep like this for about 5 - 7 days. 

How To Select The Best Kiwis

Look for kiwis that are plump and fragrant, slightly firm to the touch, with no visible bruising or wrinkles. 
To quickly ripen kiwis, place them in a paper bag with a banana. Once they are ripened, be sure to store them away from other fruits or they will decompose very quickly. Ripe kiwis can last in the refrigerator for about 1-2 weeks.

Save Lemon Rinds To Bleach and Deodorize Your Sink

Save those lemons and lemon rinds after juicing or use in recipes to bleach and disinfect your kitchen sink. You can also throw some cut lemons or lemon peels down the garbage disposal and run with some water. This will fill your kitchen with a lovely aromatic citrus scent.

How to prevent sticking when chopping dried fruits

Chopping dried fruits such as dates, apricots and raisins can be a sticky mess. The fruit sticks to the knife, the board and your fingers. To get yourself out of a sticky situation just rub a tiny drop of cold pressed oil onto the blade of your knife. The fruit will slide right off after cutting.

Avoid sticky garlic

When chopping garlic into fine pieces, it can leave you in a sticky situation. The garlic sticks to your knife, your fingers, and the board. To avoid this – simply rub a tiny drop of olive oil onto the blade of your knife and a few drops onto the garlic cloves. The oil coats the garlic and stops it from sticking.

Get the most juice out of your citrus fruits

Always juice lemons, limes and oranges at room temperature. This will maximize the juice available. Another trick is to use a citrus press. I could not live without mine! I have one for lemons, one for limes and one for oranges. But if you squeeze as much lemon and lime juice as I do, it can be a pain in….your hand. To alleviate some of the pressure cut the fruit into quarters instead of halves. Not only is it easier than juicing halves – it actually yields more juice.

Adding flour into the food processor when mixing

I recommend using a food processor to make a lot of my batters. However, adding flours into the mixture can be time consuming and messy if you have to take the lid off every time you want to add something. In addition to this, the opening of the top if often a lot smaller than the width of a standard cup measurer and it is difficult to get the flours in evenly without losing a lot of it and making a mess. A quick trick to make this easer is to create a funnel with some parchment (baking) paper. Place this funnel into the feeding tube and this will allow the flours to slide in slowly and evenly.

Easily Remove Cakes from tins

If you leave a cake too long in a greased tin, it can be difficult to remove. A really easy way to ensure a cake slides right out of a greased tin is to run the bottom of the tin over a very low flame on the stove top. This will melt the fat that was used to initially grease the tin and the cake will slide right out.

Julienning vegetables

To “julienne” or cut vegetables such as carrots, zucchini, cucumber or broccoli stalks into gorgeous match-stick strips – simply cut slices on the bias of about ¼ inch thick. Then cut the slices into strips. This will create a lovely point on each end.

Neatly cutting brownies and slices

Cutting the perfect square pieces of brownies and slices and getting them to look perfect without breaks and crumbs can be challenging. A quick easy way to “slice slices” is to use a plastic knife that glides through and doesn’t collect the crumbs.

Cleaning the face of your blender

Sometimes we have a blender glitch and our concoction gets all over the base and in between all of the buttons and dials. A quick easy way to get into those hard little spots on your blender is to use a baby-soft toothbrush with a little bit of water water. The bristles will get into those hard-to-reach spots, and will not scratch the surface. Check out my No Hassle Way To Clean Your Blender video that I did as part of the Chow Tips Video Series.

Rotating a cake or loaf during baking

Cakes, loaves and breads need to be rotated half-way during baking to ensure even browning. But bulky oven mitts can smear the surface of your cake. To avoid this, use a large pair of tongs to grab the lip of the in and quickly turn it around.

Testing the ripeness of an avocado

Squeezing an avocado to test for ripeness can sometimes be misleading. A ripe avocado should yield slightly to a little pressure. However, this softness can sometimes be due to bruising; and may not always indicate that an avocado is truly ripe. A second test is to pluck the little stem from the top. This is not unlike testing the ripeness of a pineapple. If the stem comes off easily and reveals a green colour underneath then the avocado is ripe. If it is brown, then it is bruised or unripe.

Releasing the flavour and oils in fresh herbs

Making dips, pestos and sauces in the food processor and blender is quick and easy. But the fast action of the blades pulverizes everything so quickly, that you don’t always get the most out of fresh herbs such as basil, cilantro, parsley and mint. To capitalize on their divinely flavourful oils - bruise them a little bit with a meat mallet or rolling pin before placing them into the machine. This will help to release the full flavour of the herb, resulting in a richer, more full bodied blend.

don’t waste those broccoli stalks

Have you ever been asked the question “Do you eat the heads of the broccoli or the stalks”? My answer – both! Most people prefer the heads. But the stalks are really tasty and useful too. If a recipe calls for only the heads of the broccoli don’t throw away the precious stalks! They are loaded with nutrients and really tasty. My favourite way to use the stalks is to grate or julienne the stalks to make broccoli slaw. Toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic and you have a quick raw salad that is bursting with green power!

selecting the best raw walnuts

Raw unshelled walnuts are widely available in pre-packaged bags as well as bulk bins. Always purchase from a supplier where there is a high turnover to ensure freshness and quality. Look for walnuts that are uniform in colour. Avoid the limp and shrivelled ones. Walnuts should smell nutty and sweet. If they smell musty or rancid they are bad. Walnuts are extremely susceptible to rancidity due to their high polyunsaturated fat content. To preserve the precious oils, store walnuts in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to six months. Always soak walnuts before using to remove the enzyme inhibitors and make them more digestible.

a speedy way to ripen bananas

Placing unripe bananas in a paper bag is a great natural way to ripen bananas. The paper bag traps the ethylene gas produced by the bananas speeding up the ripening, but allows the oxygen to circulate so the bananas don’t rot. If you want the bananas to ripen even more quickly add an apple or an avocado in the bag which increases the amount of ethylene gas produced.

quicky way to rub butter into flours

A quick way to rub butter into flour: If you don’t have a food processor to rub the butter into the flour it can be done quickly by pressing the butter through a potato ricer. Then the butter can be incorporated really quickly into the flour to achieve that bread-crumb-like consistency without over working the dough.

the best way to store lemons

Lemons continue to respire and ripen after they have been harvested. The faster they respire the more carbon dioxide they produce, and the quicker they spoil. Store your lemons in the fridge to slow this down and they should keep for up to about ten days. Make sure you do not store them in plastic bags where they are on top of each other. When there is limited oxygen, the ethylene gas gets trapped, causing them to rot. Always bring them to room temperature to get the most juice out of them.

let your snout lead the way – refrigerate sangria to infuse the flavours

To get the most flavour out of sangria, refrigerate for about six to eight hours to allow all of the flavours to infuse. Then adjust the flavours accordingly and add water before serving.

where is the best place to store tomatoes?

For maximum freshness and to capitalize on nutrition, tomatoes should be consumed the day they are purchased. However, this is not always possible. Store tomatoes at room temperature out of direct sunlight. They should keep for up to about ten days depending on the variety and how ripe they were when purchased. Storing unripe tomatoes in the fridge impedes the ripening process and will compromise their flavour and make them spongy. If you need to store ripe tomatoes in the fridge for a couple of days, place them in the butter compartment (which is the warmest part of the fridge). Then bring them to room temperature before using to get the most juice and flavour.

a quick easy way to clean this “cling-on” pieces out of your garlic press

If you are using a garlic press to mince your garlic you will know how hard they can to clean sometimes. There are always a few little stubborn bits that refuse to let go of the garlic party. Next time you are replacing your toothbrush (I replace mine about once a month) recycle it and then wash it. Keep it under the sink to scrub out your garlic press under running water to help remove those little cling on pieces.

freeze that leftover coconut cream for treats later

When you cook with canned coconut milk or coconut cream you often have some left over depending on the needs of the recipe. You can freeze the leftovers for up to a month for use later.

the best way to clean your blender

After blending up something sticky, gooey or smelly, just place a few drops of soap in the carriage with some warm water and blend on high until all of the congealed food slips away from the blades and sides. Then repeat this process. Then rinse with water and presto! Clean carriage. 
If you have smells or stains repeat this process with some bicarbonate of soda or lemon juice and water. 
Check out the video on A No Hassle Way To Clean Your Blender that I did as part of the Chow Tips Series.

the best way to grate fresh ginger

Nothing beats a porcelain ginger grater! Just rub the whole ginger piece unpeeled over the grater and you have it ready in literally seconds, Procelain ginger graters are as cheap and chips and so easy to clean. Just place the whole grater under running water and everything runs off. That little piece of kitchen gadget mastery would be in my top ten favourite cooking tools. I have had mine for years and travel everywhere with it. Thankyou Tony!

selecting great tomatoes

Tomatoes are very hard to transport when they are ripened as they get damaged very easily. So most tomatoes are picked green and then sprayed with ethylene gas (yuk) to make them red. They are also covered with a wax coating to prolong their shelf life. To avoid this “freak fruit” try to purchase organic tomatoes from local farmers that are allowed to ripen on the vine naturally. Look for tomatoes that have a rich red uniform colour and are firm and heavy. These tomatoes have the best flavour and the most lycopenes and nutritional value. If you must purchase conventional tomatoes peek the skin off before using.

remove hazelnut skins and catch the nuts in one fell swoop

After allowing the roasted hazelnuts to cool, place them in a recycled plastic mesh bag with small holes like you buy lemons, limes or oranges in. Tie both ends and then rub the bag between your hands over the sink or trash can. All of the skins will slip through the bag leaving the whole naked treasures inside. Now that is better than the dirty tea towel approach!

select perfect avocados

A ripe avocado will have a dark brown/green skin that yields just a little under pressure. Place your thumb on the top of the avocado and it should have a slight give. Really soft avocados have an unpalatable flavour and the brown discolouration indicates the presence of free radicals. I always buy my avocados rock hard so that I can control the ripening process on my bench top. Then I can check them every day and get them “just right”. I buy rock hard avocados every day and have a rotation so that I have at least one that is perfect for consumption every day! To slow down the ripening process place the avocados in the fridge once they are ripe and they should keep for a few days.

freeze fresh lime juice in ice cube trays for later

Fresh limes can be really expensive when they are not in season. To ensure you always have a stash of fresh lime juice, freeze juice in ice cube trays and defrost them as you need them for recipes. These ice cubes also make fantastic additions to flavour water, mocktails and smoothies.

how to select and store kale

To select the best tasting kale with the highest nutritional density look for varieties that have bright rich coloured leaves that are firm and energetic. The stems should be moist and crisp. Buy organic wherever possible and avoid leaves that are wilted, discoloured, bruised or have holes. Kale is very delicate and will become yellow, bitter, and lose much of its nutritional properties very quickly if not stored correctly. Do not wash the kale, but rather, enclose it in a plastic bag taking out as much of the air as possible. Then store in a cold fridge for up to five days. The Tupperware vegetable storers with the “breathers” are phenomenal for storing kale! For all of you fellow “tupper-tarts” out there – you know what I am talking about!

selecting and storing raw cashews

“Raw” cashews are widely available in pre-packaged bags as well as bulk bins. Always purchase from a supplier where there is a high turnover to ensure freshness and quality. Look for plump cashews that are uniform in colour. Avoid the limp and shrivelled ones. Cashews should smell nutty and sweet. If they have a sharp or bitter smell they have gone rancid. To preserve the precious oils, store cashews in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to six months. Always soak cashews before using to remove the enzyme inhibitors and make them more digestible.

freeze those ripe bananas for yummies later

To ensure you always have a stash of frozen ripe bananas for your smoothies, muffins and breads, never throw away ripe bananas. Just keep freezing them whole in their skins in a ziplock bag. The riper they are (not soft and mushy) the sweeter they are - meaning you will need little or no sweetener! You can keep adding to the bag. Then when you need them, take the desired amount out of the bag and then rinse and cut for delectable frozen treats. I buy a bunch of bananas every week that I let ripen on the bench top and then freeze for use later. Bananayumma!

mangoes ripe for the pickin!

If you are using the mango immediately you want to pick a mango that is plump and feels heavy. Ripe mangoes will yield to a slight amount of pressure when you take your thumb and slightly indent the top where the stem is. A ripe mango will be wonderfully fragrant when you bring it to your snout. Yum! Avoid mangoes that have bruising or feel soft. They are not for discerning piggies. Store your precious mangoes in the fridge to prolong their life. If you buy mangoes hard and green, leave them out on the counter top for a few days to ripen.

select fresh spinach popeye would be proud of

The best tasting spinach has vibrant bright green leaves with crisp stems. This spinach also has the highest nutritional value. Purchase organic wherever possible. Avoid wilted leaves that have yellow discolouring, bruising, or a slimy coating. This spinach has passed its prime and should not be consumed.

avoid chilli stings to your eyes and skin

I am always rubbing my eyes and have often, after cutting a chilli, received a nasty hot sting that has blinded me for a few minutes. To avoid transferring the heat to your eyes or skin, there are a couple of things you can do – wear plastic gloves when cutting; or rub the fingers of one hand with some olive oil (the hand you are holding the chilli with, not the hand you are holding the knife). Only touch the chilli with the oiled hand and then wash with hot soapy water.

want a quick easy way to cut kernels from fresh corn?

Cutting corn from fresh cobs can be difficult – navigating your way around those pointy ends and finding an even surface to safely cut the kernels. Cut the ear in half and then stand each half in the cut end. This creates a flat stable surface to work from making it much safer with a knife.

here’s a great way to clean beet stains

Beets are delicious! But they can be messy to work with and stain everything they touch including hands, cutting boards and bench tops. I always use gloves to handle beets so I don’t spread the juices to everything else in my kitchen. To remove the beet juice from cutting boards and bench tops just sprinkle the surface with some salt. This helps to lift the residue. Leave it sit for a while and then rinse and scrub with soap and water.
You can’t beet that!